The first week of November sees essentially every Christmas movie from the past 20 years flood onto streaming services. This includes past theatrical releases and a deluge of Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas romantic comedies. Hulu and Amazon are good places to look for those. (Any new ones will come out closer to the holiday itself.)
As I was researching through them, one in particular caught my attention: Sophia Takal’s horror movie “Black Christmas”. This came out in 2019 and I remember the trailers looked intriguing. A group of women in college find themselves being picked off one by one and set out to find the killers.
“Black Christmas” got a full release in theaters months before the pandemic closed them down. While it’s not technically new, it did come to HBO Max this past week.
Here’s what’s most interesting about “Black Christmas” to me. It has a 3.3 rating on IMDB. That sucks. Why would that be interesting?
Look at a few of these reviews and you’ll notice that a swamp of negative ones all mention the film’s feminism as a reason for their low score. This tends to happen on particular sites, IMDB being one of them. Misogynist groups often look for movies, series, books, and games that they can review-bomb with bad user reviews.
Let’s see what critics thought: it has a score of 49 on Metacritic. Also not good, with a very even spread: 9 positive, 8 mixed, and 8 negative reviews. Who are those reviews by, though?
Among women critics: 4 positive, 3 mixed, and only 1 negative review.
Among male critics: 3 positive, 5 mixed, and 7 negative reviews.
Among non-binary critics: 1 positive review.
Simplify it a bit and the difference is even clearer. Which critics scored the film above or below 50?
Among women, 7 scored it above, one scored it below.
Among men, 7 scored it above, and 9 scored it below.
One non-binary critic scored it above 50.
It is pretty clear that there is a marked difference in how women saw this movie vs. how men did. This is why aggregates only mean so much, especially in an era where anyone who hates a feminist theme can create five accounts to tell you how much they hate it.
When you see something that seems feminist, anti-racist, pro-LGBTQ, or standing up for any other marginalized group reviewed badly on a site like IMDB, it’s often worth it to take a quick scan through the user reviews themselves. Sometimes they really will be bad movies. Sometimes they’ll be hidden gems. Sometimes they’ll be in the middle: solid, fun movies that are worth a watch.
If you see a lot of user reviews complaining about feminism or diversity or whatever it is, recognize that score is less likely to be representative of the film and your experience watching it.
Seek out critics you trust, and if you do use a review aggregator like Metacritic to help you choose what you watch next, it lists the names of critics right beside their scores. Do you see a big difference in who those names represent as the scores go up or down? It may be worth a closer look.
I don’t know if the movie’s good or bad, but I do know one thing: I really want to see it now.
Like I said, director Sophia Takal’s “Black Christmas” is now out on HBO Max. She wrote it with April Wolfe. It stars Imogen Poots and centers around an ensemble of women.
Now let’s get onto the new stuff. It’s only a few entries this week:
Wrong Kind of Black (Netflix)
directed by Catriona McKenzie
This 4-episode Australian series follows DJ Monty Pryor in the 1960s and 70s. Pryor is a real person who uses a range of art to tell indigenous Australian stories, and was the first Australian Children’s Laureate. Here, he narrates the story of his early adulthood.
Catriona McKenzie is an indigenous Australian director who’s helmed a number of series there. She’s directed on some shows that may be more familiar to U.S. readers as well: including “How to Get Away with Murder”, “Riverdale”, and “Supernatural”.
You can watch “Wrong Kind of Black” on Netflix with a subscription.
Love & Anarchy (Netflix)
directed by Lisa Langseth
Sofie is a consultant who’s sent to modernize an old-fashioned publishing house. It doesn’t turn out to be a good fit immediately. Then she meets a young IT professional. The two start a competition where they challenge each other to cross social norms and take increasingly daring risks.
Series creator, showrunner, director, and co-writer Lisa Langseth is a major filmmaker in Sweden. She’s actually been a big factor in Alicia Vikander’s career. All three of Langseth’s feature films have cast her in a leading role: “Pure”, “Hotell”, and “Euphoria”.
You can watch “Love & Anarchy” on Netflix with a subscription.
directed by Alice Winocour
“Proxima” tells the story of a woman preparing for a year aboard the International Space Station. Sarah is played by Eva Green, and she has to deal with doubtful colleagues and being away from her daughter for an entire year. The film centers around the concept that forcing women to choose between career and family is a false choice (and one that’s rarely asked of men). Green’s performance in particular has been lauded.
Writer-director Alice Winocour has built a pretty remarkable career in only a few films. “Mustang”, which she co-wrote with Deniz Gamze Erguven, was France’s Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film for 2015. As a director, “Proxima” is her third film after “Augustine” and “Disorder”.
Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.
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